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SCOPE Summit 2018: Excitement and Engagement

by Dave Woodard

I had the opportunity to attend the SCOPE Summit for Clinical Ops Executives in Orlando, February 12-15. It’s been a few years since I last attended a SCOPE Summit, so it was interesting to see that some clinical research issues have evolved, while others persist and remain significant challenges.

Areas of focus at this summit included site activation, recruitment, budgeting and management, outsourcing, monitoring, data, technology and real world evidence, and biospecimen and clinical supply. While some topics, such as recruitment and outsourcing, were of most interest to me, I was also drawn to tracks where the industry is seeing some of its largest shifts, such as real world evidence and technology. Regardless of the sessions and aligned tracks that I attended, I found that one theme surfaced consistently. Specifically, each session ultimately crossed into similar discussions that involved patients and the methods for using available data and technology to impact a patient’s journey into and through clinical research.

On Tuesday, I started with a full agenda and plenty of excitement. The day kicked off with keynote speaker Shwen Gwee from Biogen, who in his presentation urged us to “Stop Trying to Be Innovative! Hack Your Way to Creative, Valuable Solutions.” I wasn’t sure what to expect from someone whose title is Head of Digital Strategy, but he had a great sense of humor and gave a very funny presentation. While many of the challenges remain the same, it’s good to have the opportunity to come together as an industry and share best practices and ideas, and see people getting excited.

Wednesday had a similar level of excitement and engagement from those attending the general and track-specific sessions. By Thursday, the attendee size and excitement had decreased. I wasn’t too surprised. After all, these types of conferences can be grueling after several days. It may not have helped that we were in Orlando this year, and likely lost some people to the many irresistible parks.

While the industry continues its struggle to find the silver bullet to resolve the issues related to the patient, site, sponsor and CRO relationship; my observation from the 2018 SCOPE Summit is that many of us are working hard to get there. I saw a growing willingness to adopt new technologies and approaches such as wearables, sensors, ride-sharing services, and trial support outside the traditional site setting.

Companies and thought leaders are exploring all options for improving the experience for patients and providing them with a voice in the study process. I’m sure we’ll still be talking about these familiar challenges next year, but I’m optimistic that the industry will continue to look at all avenues to inspire innovation and improve how we communicate with participants in the clinical trial process.

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